Bob Carlos Clarke was best known as a photographer of women in a state of undress, a subject that obsessed him long before he took up a camera. However, his reputation as ‘Britain’s answer to Helmut Newton’ hints at only a fraction of his talent and suggests none of the turmoil that governed his career until his death in 2006. Bob Carlos Clarke has a reputation as being a photographer of striking versatility as well as one of the world’s finest photographic printmakers. Bob Carlos Clarke was born in Cork, Ireland in 1950, and came to England in 1964 to study art and design at The West Sussex College of Art where he developed an interest in photography. He then went on to The London College of Printing, before completing his degree at the Royal College of Art in 1975.
Within a few years Bob Carlos Clarke was established as a first-call fashion, portrait and commercial photographer and soon moved on to do campaigns for Smirnoff and Volkswagen among numerous others. He soon gained the reputation as an auteur image-maker with a line in mysterious, imaginative and erotic monochrome photographs.
Bob Carlos Clarke worked in almost every sphere of photography, winning numerous awards for his high-profile advertising campaigns, recognition for his photojournalism and portraits of celebrities, and international acclaim from collectors of fine prints. He also had a book published called The Dark Summer which featured his customary erotic figures of women.
He established a body of work that was original, diverse, challenging and often beautiful. It was always striking: you couldn’t walk past his pictures without emotion or reaction. He was taken by the gothic and the futuristic, and he was fascinated by the organic enchantment of cemeteries. He photographed the famous – most startlingly Keith Richards, Rachel Weisz and the Amazonian models of the 1990s – but his best work includes a documentary study of hormonal teenagers at a ball and the found objects, mostly cutlery, he discovered washed up on the banks of the Thames. In 1987, Bob Carlos Clarke shot White Heat in the frenetic kitchens of the then up-and-coming chef Marco Pierre White – capturing, in Carlos Clarke’s words, ‘the passion and violence that was never seen in the effete world of jovial cooks’.
Bob Carlos Clarke’s was voted one of the ‘100 Most Influential Photographers of All Time’ byProfessional Photographer magazine three years after his death.